Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

A ballot initiative filed Thursday would limit Oregon grocery stores to two self-checkout stations.

The Oregon AFL-CIO filed the “Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act” with the Secretary of State’s office in hopes of having ballot language certified in time for the November 2020 election.

“It’s about jobs,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. Pumping one’s own gas is illegal in most of Oregon for the same reason, he said.

Chamberlain added that the loss of cashier positions to self-service affects women and minorities, who are disproportionately employed in those jobs. The union’s proposed ballot language lists 10 findings, from self-service contributing to social isolation to a decrease in customer service.

Northwest Grocery Association spokesman Joe Gilliam was not immediately available for comment.

A Bend Safeway shopper, Alisha Smith said she likes self-checkout because when there’s no line, it gets her out of the store more quickly. She said she also likes to use it when she doesn’t feel up to social interactions.

The proposal defines a grocery store as a business that earns the majority of its gross income from the retail sale of food and beverages, except alcohol and marijuana; prescription and over-the-counter drugs, personal care and hygiene items and miscellaneous household maintenance items.

There are several hurdles to clear in Oregon’s initiative petition process. The union can’t begin to collect the 112,020 signatures required for a statutory initiative until the ballot title is approved. That alone is a multistep process.

Chamberlain said he thinks the initiative will resonate with young people turning out to vote in 2020.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com